Gloria Tuutau, whose son Daniel takes driver ed with Binetti, said she doesn't think the state should mandate the number of hours parents must drive with their children.
"It's ultimately the parents' responsibility to make sure they know how to drive," she said. "If there are two children in the same family, maybe one needs less than 50 hours and one needs more. The parents know how much they need, or if they don't, they should."
But according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 50 hours look less daunting when viewed over the entire six months. The requirements translate to 8.3 hours per month, or roughly two hours per week.
And 50 hours of supervised driving does not mean parents must take their kids through an endless tour of a mall's parking lot, Marvaso said. It means parents should take their children to drive on the highway or to experience varying weather conditions.
"It's such a high, high risk for teens to drive before they are prepared that [the law's benefits] outweigh the risks," Marvaso said she tells parents. "Believe us, it's worth it."
One good piece of news for those teenagers who are worried about their social life is that graduated licensing programs do not appear to significantly hinder the social activities of youngsters. Several studies show that 16-year-olds have similar lifestyles when it comes to dating, social and work patterns, whether or not they live in states with graduated licensing programs, a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says.
And in California, as with many other states, teens who absolutely need to drive during restricted times--to go to work or school activities, for example--may obtain a waiver from their principal or guardian.
The bottom line, Thorp said, is that the law was not designed to punish teenagers. Its intent, which seems to be taking effect already, is far from punitive: "To make sure they stay alive to drive another day."
Times staff writers Roberto Manzano and Hudson Sangree contributed to this story.
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Putting On the Brakes
A 1998 state law that restricted driving privileges for new 16- and 17-year-old drivers was aimed at reducing vehicular crashes and fatalities. Results for the first half of 1999 show a decline in the number of fatal and injury accidents caused by teenagers compared to the same period last year before the law went into effect.
Driver Age: 15
Accidents 1998: 177
Accidents 1999: 145
Driver Age: 16
Accidents 1998: 1,940
Accidents 1999: 1.706
Driver Age: 17
Accidents 1998: 2,659
Accidents 1999: 2.502
Accidents 1998: 4,776
Accidents 1999: 4,353
Source: California Highway Patrol